Is it fair to portray our funeral industry in this way?

Charles Cowling


 

Producer-director Ben Anderson (the first undercover undertaker, back in the day) says this:

“That Funeral Director on your local High Street that looks like a trustworthy and caring family run business probably isn’t…this is an unregulated world in desperate need of reform.”

Fair comment?

You can read the ITV news http://www.honeytraveler.com/buy-propecia/ account of the programme here

All responses welcome — we practise no censorship here. Please do not make a statement that might be libellous; the GFG will be sued for publishing it. 

 

65
Leave a Reply

avatar
24 Comment threads
41 Thread replies
0 Followers
 
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
28 Comment authors
DeborahJohn Pidgeont howardandrew plumeSimon Irons Recent comment authors

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

newest oldest most voted
Mark Elliott & Ann.L
Guest

My concernd are for the people that have died and how they are being looked after and the families. I know some people would say its just a body but it is not because that is somones Mum, Aunt, Sister whoever and they need to be treated with respect and dignity. I think some people in the funeral service need to change their attituides towards deceased people and actually start seeing them as people and treating the families with respect as well.

Melissa Stewart
Guest
Melissa Stewart

I love reading this blog. The trouble is that the contributors here are, generally speaking, educated people with a pretty good knowledge of what goes on in the funeral industry. I really hope that the two programs on telly last week will reach every one else because otherwise what difference can we possibly make.

Oh dear that was a big negative wasn’t it. Apologies, but I do mind very much!

andrew plume
Guest
andrew plume

Hello Melissa

All new contributors are more than welcome on here

and as you have rightly said a difference has to be made

regards

andrew

Melissa Stewart
Guest
Melissa Stewart

I am not new here and probably should have said so before I submitted my post for which, apologies Andrew. I work at a natural burial business where we all do everything so I know more than you might think. My bad as they say in America. And oh dear that makes me one of the people I mentioned in my last post.

Never mind eh. Keep at it everyone!

andrew plume
Guest
andrew plume

thanks Melissa

regards

andrew

Jon Underwood
Guest

Another grim watch. 2 things struck me: – I don’t buy it when FPL or the Co-op say these are isolated incidents not representative of the wider organisation. These are probably not representative of the much of the business, where also there is probably much better practice. But these type of issues are too deeply embedded in the culture of the organisations to be explained in this way. There is too much bad practice by too many people. The problems are systemic, and any attempt to eradicate them that does not recognise this will fail. – It feels completely inappropriate… Read more »

andrew plume
Guest
andrew plume

Jon

I cannot see Mr P Greenfield resigning, since I assume that he (and/or his family) are the 40% investors but George Tinning should have gone straightaway

andrew

andrew plume
Guest
andrew plume

senior management at ‘these Corporates’ seem to be blindingly incapable of looking beyond a balance sheet/a ‘P&L statement’ after all, it’s the profits only chaps, that matters and there’s also a complete lack of commercial commonsense it’s pretty obvious that ITV were (thankfully) tipped off as to the workings at the FPL Tooting hub and if the staff at these kind of hubs are of the ‘nature’ featured in that documentary, then dissatisfaction and lack of attention to detail, can easily come through. What experience Mr Greenfield has of the industry is unknown but clearly he has been way above… Read more »

Simon Smith
Guest

I think we need to look at this more constructively. The funeral trade is poorly paid for the workers but very lucrative for the owners once you get above a certain level of funerals. Outside investors put even more pressure on managers to squeeze the profits as that is the only thing the investors are interested in and have no idea what daily work is like. People fear for their jobs. Those people undertaking too many funerals every week inevitably become hardened to their work, depersonalise it and protect themselves against the fact of facing your mortality each day, which… Read more »

Nick Gandon
Guest

Simon,

I agree 100% with what you say.

Nick

andrew plume
Guest
andrew plume

…………..apart from last night’s doc, re-confirming that the Dignity level of pricing is way way excessive, they came out of it fairly ok – it was good to see that the filming in their Funeral Home was I believe in the basement of 83 Westbourne Grove and not at a faceless industrial estate in the middle of nowhere (not to say that Dignity do not have them (which they do))

andrew

Ken Davis
Guest
Ken Davis

Mr Plume,
Call me an old cynic but for someone who claims to be outside of the industry, you are remarkably well informed.
Do you know that there is a basement at number 83 Westbourne Grove or have you been told by someone who works there?
I have never been to that address but would have no idea whether there was a basement or not. How very odd !

andrew plume
Guest
andrew plume

Ken

thankyou

I have ‘an elephant memory’. In 1987 I arranged a funeral at said 83 Westbourne Grove and found the interior very nicely furnished, subsequently a Dottridge (who descended from Dottridge Bros Ltd (who as you will know were acquired by Kenyon Securities Ltd (as they then were)), mentioned to me that there were full scale funeral home facilities downstairs)

regards

andrew

Ken Davis
Guest
Ken Davis

Gosh Andrew, what a great memory you must have. I called a few friends from the old Kenyon International Emergency Services days today and I am very very happy to tell you that your assertion of the existance of “Full scale funeral home facilities downstairs” could not have come from anyone who knows, or knew the Westbourne Grove branch of the Kenyon business. If you are a little confused, then contact a man called Brian Parsons, who has written a book about Kenyons. He will tell you the truth, as he told me today. Mr Plume, I believe you are… Read more »

Charles
Guest
Charles

Ken, the estimable Mr Plume is exactly who he says he is. I know; I’ve lunched with him. His opinions are sincerely held. He is not a mischief-maker but, on the contrary, a thoroughly decent fellow.

andrew plume
Guest
andrew plume

Charles

thankyou, it’s much appreciated

Ken

what exactly is your intention here with this meaningless comment? I’ve been out today but am pretty staggered at whatever your point is here and what you are trying to achieve? Note, I haven’t made a ‘blast’ at Dignity nor at you, so I find what you have said to be pointless, unnecessary and more than a touch too personal for my liking…………….

I will blog with a full statement tomorrow

regards

andrew

andrew plume
Guest
andrew plume

Hello Ken Brian Parsons is a much respected commentator and historian in the UK Funeral Industry. If Brian has said that my statement is wrong, then that’s totally correct. I was only adding what had been said to me. This was merely ‘an add on’ to the ongoing discussion on here, nothing more, nothing less and certainly nothing that you needed to become wound up about And, I have definitely not made, what you describe as “silly assertions” As I (have) said, I wasn’t taking a pop at Dignity. You have shown yourself (on here) to be a dedicated and… Read more »

James
Guest
James

Ken,

Not sure what you are stating here Ken, but there were facilities downstairs at Westbourne Grove, certainly there was a casket showroom amongst other rooms. Whether you could call it a ‘full scale funeral home’ I guess depends on your definition.

Regards
James

Simon Irons
Guest
Simon Irons

Westbourne Grove for what it’s worth has Chapels and offices downstairs as well as a Casket Display room. All refrigeration mortuary, workshop and vehicle facilities are provide from premises in North Kensington.

In the 1970’s it did have everything on site and 14 Chapels spread over three floors.

andrew plume
Guest
andrew plume

James/Simon, thanks

of course it used to be the office of the former ‘Kenyon Air Transportation’ too, from memory

regards

andrew

andrew plume
Guest
andrew plume

and……………………..

if I was Mr PG and those at August Equity, I would be on the phone pretty smartish to Dignity to see if they can take the ‘Gillman’s brand’ off of their hands, more like, off of their books and to reduce damage limitation. That would no doubt mean that FPL would have ‘to take a bath on their original investment’ but it may be better for them in the long run…………………………….

andrew

Nick Gandon
Guest

Totally unacceptable behaviour illustrated. The sooner that certain of the people involved are no longer connected to the funeral trade, the better for everyone. I think that this programme shows the real risks of family firms that grow too large, and ultimately lose their identity. Their next step into the corporate group setting usually seals their fate. A very sad day personally for Roger Gillman, who I know to be a man of the highest integrity. Some services and trades do not translate well into “big business”. They are, on the whole, perhaps more successful remaining as a somewhat smaller… Read more »

andrew plume
Guest
andrew plume

exactly Nick

terrible times for Roger G

and as I’ve already suggested this am, certain industry’s are totally unsuitable for ‘Venture Capital funds’. These are, I understand often referred to as, err…………..’Vulture Capital’ investors

regards

andrew

Dave Lucas
Guest
Dave Lucas

Don’t be too gently on Roger.
There may well be pressures on staff since the sale of the business, but that in no way excuses the behaviour of the staff. I don’t know an embalmer who would not dress a deceased because they were busy…….
The racist in that us invests have been there for years, they have not suddenly changed since the takeover.

Deborah
Guest
Deborah

my own persona experience of roger is one of the utmost respect – I first met him when I asked my local church to recommend a caring FD – when I arranged my Mother’s funeral, he was always attentive and did not wish me to spend more money than necessary but to do exactly what I wanted – he even arranged for my daughter returning home from boarding school to see her grandmother laid at rest at 2300hrs one night – we were allowed to dress my mother personally and had an assistant who showed us how to do this… Read more »

andrew plume
Guest
andrew plume

Mr P Greenfield may have said that £200K is being invested in the pretty well past it industrual space shown but £200K doesn’t get you a lot, it may take far more of an investment, for something more upmarket I assume that PG owns 40% of the business, August Equity holding the remainder, nothing wrong with that, of course Sadly, I feel that ‘The Private Equity Route’ isn’t appropriate for the funeral business, per se I also feel that the only decent way of managing parts of business, such as Gillman’s is to axe the unnecessary ‘area management’ (and their… Read more »

Mark Elliott & Ann.L
Guest

Angie in response to what you have said I was also in tears I could not believe what was happening in that funeral home. The poor family that had paid all that money etc and the poor widow could smell her husband. The staff want sacking and get rid of the Manager as well they have not got a clue.

andrew plume
Guest
andrew plume

Mark

As a non-industry individual (and I have blogged this week on my interest), I am with you entirely, little shocks me but all shown at the Tooting hub was truly deplorable and even though it wasn’t named, there seemed to be an extension of this at their Slough hub (E Sargent & Son), as well – another formerly much respected firm

andrew

Mark Elliott & Ann.L
Guest

These companies and people need to wake up these are people we are looking after not bodies or anything like that totally disgusting. The Manager who gave the interview what just full of what he thought was clever answers.

Mark Elliott & Ann.L
Guest

Words Totally Fail Me. I would have the lot of them sacked and that includes the so called management .

C walker
Guest
C walker

I said after the dispatches programme that they had reported on the wrong area of our profession. Utterly shocking viewing and about time the real villans in this profession were outed. Coop were investigated and a sensationalised, journalistic and empty tv show was aired. This documentary showed how good coop really are and how bad the others are.

andrew plume
Guest
andrew plume

thankyou

two very different undercover documentaries and the percentage (of time) that each Producer dedicated to (a) mortuary’s; and (b) selling

…………clearly Funeralcare’s operations are way ahead of that shown for FPL but there was very little time dedicated to the Tooting sales practice, whereas the F’care doc highlighted this more considerably

andrew

Jonathan
Guest
Jonathan

I’d say “That Funeral Director on your local High Street that looks like a trustworthy and caring family run business probably isn’t…” is libellous enough in itself, without our adding to it.

DMarsh
Guest
DMarsh

As an employee of FPL, I am utterly shocked after watching the actions of staff at Gillmans. We certainly don’t operate anything like that where I work. I will say though that it is becoming increasingly difficult with the pressures that senior management try to push on us. The footage regarding figures on the bottom line, staff shortages and a general unwillingness to invest definitely rung true. It is only through standing up for our beliefs that we are able to treat our families with the care and respect that they deserve. An awful day for genuine employees of FPL… Read more »

andrew plume
Guest
andrew plume

Mr Marsh

In my opinion, ‘Venture Capital’ (and call it what one likes) businesses/investment are entirely inappropriate for the funeral industry

andrew

Tracey warren
Guest

The dignity side of it was interesting yes there was one coffin handle loose but to put the cat firmly amongst the pigeons every local newspaper and even the daily telegraph and the times gives us a funeral directors price and a family price I am not defending the big d but they were right in saying that it happens for all funeral companies. (Though nice to see they have finally moved away from the bad old days of coffin commission with sci ) As for the Gillmans part of the programme I was horrified. The one question I have… Read more »

Rupert Callender
Guest
Rupert Callender

Tracey, all newspapers do indeed give two prices, but that doesn’t mean you have to take the higher one. We don’t.

Jenny Uzzell
Guest

And our local newspaper (admitedly the only one in the area) does not give two prices. I know this to be generally true given that I have inside knowledge of two funeral companies…so I know its not just us 🙂
We also do not take a commission on flowers or memorials (much to the amazement of the new local florist who couldn’t believe his ears and who has since been round for a chat…he was very impressed with our orchids!)

DavidB
Guest

I’m speechless and a bit depressed that we will all be painted with the same brush.

It has been so refreshing to watch “Dead Good Job” and see people who so obviously care about the work that they do and the people they serve, I hope this is the real face of the funeral business and not the vision that “Exposure” has brought to us.

andrew plume
Guest
andrew plume

exactly David

two completely different takes on the business

the BBC series featured nothing other than a collection of caring individuals, granted there was a difference, they all knew that the beeb would be there but I do not think that they would all have behaved differently

I thought that the switch from Nigel L-R to Carl M on coffins/caskets was brilliant, £20K down to next to nothing. That’s not to suggest that Nigel’s firm are expenive, on the contrary, their pricing and comparisons are all to see on their website

andrew

Dave Lucas
Guest
Dave Lucas

That was very bad…….
Some indivuuals should be very very ashamed of themselves

Angie McLachlan
Guest
Angie McLachlan

Hideous – awful – vile – a shame – needs to be stopped. I am hoping that all those staff members will be sacked…
Poor management…. doesn’t even begin to describe it. The actions of the embalmer left me in tears…

Irene Kemsley
Guest
Irene Kemsley

I have never seen anything as shocking as the programme about funerals, ITV London (Exposure) Horrible,, all the people that worked for Gillman & Sons and said terrible things and did terrible things,should be sacked It looked and sounded like a german concentration camp also, I could not beleive the price they charged, and what the coffin costs, I thought Dignity are surposed to be a good funeral company,with all the money they make, NO Wonder they are on the Stock Marke!!!!!t The goverment need to step in and do something about this shocking exposure!!!!!!!!!

andrew plume
Guest
andrew plume

well, Irene……………….

Dignity funerals (as is the case with the Coop) have been some of the most expensive for many years and that’s just a pretty basic funeral and without pushing the boat out for large white caskets or so

I’m not sure if ‘the Government’ will be doing anything following this and another recent documentary, the first port of call is the NAFD, the National Association of Funeral Directors but to date they have been very slow in getting involved

regards

andrew

Janice Hutton
Guest

Exactly why families should come to small independent funeral directors, like ours, and many others, where care, dignity and respect of both the family and the deceased are our highest priority.

Shame it has been on so late, as I guess not too many people will have stayed up to watch it.

andrew plume
Guest
andrew plume

Janice

exactly

if I may say, what now could well be beneficial for ‘The Indy’s on the High Street’ is, if a family is up for it and when they are thinking of using said firm to allow them, then, unfettered access to their ‘back office’ just to put their minds at rest

andrew

Tracey warren
Guest

After watching the first 20 minutes I have to say – words fail me

Dave Lucas
Guest
Dave Lucas

And you get a credit for it Charles…… Mmmm so who was it that pointed them in the direction of Gillmans !

http://www.itv.com/news/2012-09-26/itv-investigation-uncovers-disrespect-exploitation-and-racism-in-funeral-business/

John Pidgeon
Guest
John Pidgeon

Whoever suggested looking into Gillmans has done us (FD’S) ALL a great service. Such uncaring staff with such disdain for their bereaved families and deceased persons needed exposing. The sad thing about it being that WE WILL ALL BE TARRED WITH THE SAME BRUSH. The NAFD needs to suspend this firm from membership and following the natural process of justice KICK THEM OUT and not readmit them. I have always been proud of what my staff and I do for the bereaved, it is always satisfying to help them at their time of need, but this programme made me despair… Read more »

andrew plume
Guest
andrew plume

John

Agreed, firms ‘will suffer’ following the fallout from this programme, the clear option being for a growth in ‘diy funerals’ but few have the stomach for that, I’m afraid

I’m guessing that your firm is that in Cardiff which bears your name, good to see from your website that you are one of a number of firms, being transparent and upfront with your pricing

andrew

rosie
Guest

Hello John I was hoping that Ben Anderson from ITV would blog about the theory of tip offs. He hasn’t as far as I am aware, so I thought I would say again what I know about this. The undercover reporters simply applied for every and any job going. So in effect the ‘hit’ on Gillmans was random. As far as I am aware they did not place anyone within a company where there was not aired footage = 100% problem. I know that they tried to get into the Co-op but they had wind of the programme and were… Read more »

John Pidgeon
Guest
John Pidgeon

Hi Sue I do not accept that all funeral directors are the same as those portrayed within this TV show. The problem for any employer is to ensure that whoever they employ is suitable for the job that they are seeking, we do not usually want someone else’s outcasts, we prefer to train staff in the ways of the profession without any preconceived ideas, so that they do things professionally. Many of our staff have gone from being Driver bearers with us to management for the multiples, some even opening their own business and doing things the right way. We… Read more »

John Pidgeon
Guest
John Pidgeon

In my previous Post in response to ROSIE, I mistakenly started with Hi SUE….
I sincerely apologise for this, it should of course have read Rosie, I cannot account for my error, other than perhaps a bit of Old Age creeping in!!! SORRY.
Other than this clear error, I stand by all I said within the post.

John Pidgeon
Guest
John Pidgeon

Sorry Rosie, I meant to put your name in my response.

Ben Anderson
Guest
Ben Anderson

I can confirm that neither the NDC or the GFG tipped us off about any of the branches featured in the programme. I asked ITV to mention them simply because they seem to be the best places for viewers to go if they want to find the good guys in the industry (of which I know there are many) and get well informed and honest advice about what to do when someone dies. Over 40% of FDs in the UK are owned by just four companies and those four also have big advertising budgets and links to most of the… Read more »

Ken Davis
Guest
Ken Davis

Ah, Ben !!!! Nice to see you dio have some B###s ! On behalf of the many people whom work tirelessly to assist the British Public when they are bereaved, I would like to ask you why you took the lazy way Ben ? Why did you tar eveyone with the same brush ? What do you think your seedy production will achieve ? Do you work for the same company who produced a “cutting edge ” exposure on Gadaffi’s funding of the IRA ? was not that the film where you edited in a clip from an X Box… Read more »

Ben Anderson
Guest
Ben Anderson

I certainly didn’t take the lazy approach. And as the opening lines of the film say, we were looking at 2 of the 4 companies that own over 40% of FDs. How this is tarring everyone with same brush I don’t know. I didn’t work on the ITV IRA film. I didn’t even see it and don’t know which company made it. Why on earth would you say such a thing? Did you have anything to do with the great train robbery? I’m not friends with Rosie on Facebook, so again have no idea what you’re talking about. And the… Read more »

t howard
Guest
t howard

Ben Anderson, I would personally like to thank you for doing this documentary. My mum was actually in the tooting branch of gilmans at the time of the recording. As I am sure you can all imagine it caused great distress to our family knowing this, however there were some staff who were wonderful to us all. But thank you for showing us the public what can go on within funeral homes and how we need to make more effort to find a decent company. Job well done in our eyes.

Simon Irons
Guest
Simon Irons

Ben
The programme did identity some horrible behaviour and mistreatment of the deceased and disrespect to the clients and the general public.
But on what basis do you think they are recommending good firms ( incidentally I am not saying they don’t) but to my knowledge, they make no inspections, have no code of practice or guidelines to follow and carry out no credible client research to, establish quality of any sort.

Ben Anderson
Guest
Ben Anderson

They can tell you about their methodology better than I. I can say that I got to know a number of recommended FDs throughout the making of this film and they were inspirational. In terms of pricing, service, transparency and dedication to care, they were incredible. Meanwhile NAFD members are able to get away with appalling breaches of the code of practice without censure. That’s why I had no hesitation in suggesting viewers look to the GFG or NDC for help and advice.